Sex Determination: Why So Many Ways of Doing It?

Doris Bachtrog, Judith E. Mank, Catherine L. Peichel, Mark Kirkpatrick, Sarah P. Otto, Tia Lynn Ashman, Matthew W. Hahn, Jun Kitano, Itay Mayrose, Ray Ming, Nicolas Perrin, Laura Ross, Nicole Valenzuela, Jana C. Vamosi, Catherine L. Peichel, Tia Lynn Ashman, Heath Blackmon, Emma E. Goldberg, Matthew W. Hahn, Mark KirkpatrickJun Kitano, Itay Mayrose, Ray Ming, Matthew W. Pennell, Nicolas Perrin, Nicole Valenzuela, Jana C. Vamosi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sexual reproduction is an ancient feature of life on earth, and the familiar X and Y chromosomes in humans and other model species have led to the impression that sex determination mechanisms are old and conserved. In fact, males and females are determined by diverse mechanisms that evolve rapidly in many taxa. Yet this diversity in primary sex-determining signals is coupled with conserved molecular pathways that trigger male or female development. Conflicting selection on different parts of the genome and on the two sexes may drive many of these transitions, but few systems with rapid turnover of sex determination mechanisms have been rigorously studied. Here we survey our current understanding of how and why sex determination evolves in animals and plants and identify important gaps in our knowledge that present exciting research opportunities to characterize the evolutionary forces and molecular pathways underlying the evolution of sex determination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1001899
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalPLoS biology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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